C: What's It All About?
Do you know what
Hepatitis C is? Do you know why you should
care? Better read this article and find
By Robert Kolling
released statistics show that more
people are infected with Hepatitis C (HCV)
than had been previously believed. As many
as 4 million Americans and 170 million
people worldwide may be infected. Reports
are that there are between 30,000 and
40,000 new cases a year. HCV is the most
common cause of end-stage liver disease
Symptoms of HCV
are often mild or absent altogether – 80
percent of people with Hepatitis C have
no signs or symptoms of the disease – but
liver damage can occur with or without
symptoms. Since someone may have the
HCV virus in their blood and not experience
symptoms for decades after infection,
testing and treatment are vital.
of liver disease are very non-specific.
There is no distinct symptom that accurately
indicates that something is wrong with
the liver, what kind of liver disease
someone has, or how serious the problem
Symptoms that may be related
to chronic Hepatitis C include (but are
not limited to):
• Flu-like symptoms, which could include
a low fever,
chills, headaches, fatigue, nausea,
aversion to certain foods, stomach
pain, vomiting, muscular aches, loss
of appetite, and yellowing of the skin
and eyes (jaundice).
• Swelling and/or tenderness of the
abdomen and feet.
• Altered mental status, such as intermittent
confusion, disorientation, inability to
carry out mental tasks, or irritability
over insignificant things.
• Fatigue. Probably the most common
debilitating symptom of liver disease.
It is universal to all types and stages
of liver diseases. In some people, fatigue
begins several years after the liver disease
diagnosis has been made. In others, it
is the primary reason for seeking medical
attention in the first place.
• Abdominal distention and weight
gain. Abdominal distention may be caused
by ascites – the accumulation of
fluid in the abdomen.
• Other. Although not specific for
liver disease, symptoms may include
altered sleeping habits, joint aches, persistent
rash, itching, bruising more easily
than normal, loss of libido, and sometimes depression.
person may encounter some or all of these symptoms
at any time during the disease – either
intermittently or consistently. People
experience Hepatitis C in different
ways. They may not have any symptoms at all.
In fact, symptoms for chronic Hepatitis
C may not appear until advanced liver
disease is already present. It is also possible
to have symptoms but minimal liver
Remember – how you are feeling does
not always match up with the severity
of your condition. If you wait to experience
symptoms before you start treatment,
your liver may already be severely damaged.
Risk Factors. If you
have experienced any of the above mentioned
symptoms and/or been exposed to any of
the following risk factors, you should
• Drug use. This includes using injection
drugs (even once or a few times many years
ago) or inhaling narcotics.
• Tattoos done more that 10 years
ago or by an unlicensed business.
• Workplace. If you have worked in
a healthcare or emergency medical
setting or in the public safety field (police, fire,
• People. If you mother had Hepatitis
C when you were born, or had a relationship
with someone who had Hepatitis C, or was
an IV drug user.
• Medical conditions. If you were
notified that you received blood from a
donor who later tested positive for Hepatitis
C, been on long-term dialysis, or received
a blood transfusion or organ transplant
prior to July, 1992.
• Military service. Veterans who have
served in combat have an increased
probability of being exposed to the HCV virus. Exposure
to blood through contact with a
bleeding wound, receiving a blood transfusion, or
having received a tattoo are just
a few of the more common methods of transmission.
VA or your primary care physician can order a blood
test to detect the virus. If your test is positive,
further evaluation will be needed through your
doctor or a specialist, such as a gastroenterologist
or hepatologist. Because Hepatitis
C management can be complex, you will
have the support of several healthcare
professionals on your team. In addition to a
primary care doctor and a specialist, different
types of nurses, a pharmacist, and in some
cases, a mental health professional and
specialists in fields such as diet and
exercise may be part of your treatment
Currently there are but a few treatment
options that are being given. However,
there has been a flurry of research
activity to find a cure for hepatitis.
Treatments have gone from less than 10
percent effective to therapies now that
are 50 percent effective. If you have one
or more of these symptoms it is important
that you get tested. The effectiveness
rate is going up each year and the sooner
you get tested, the better chance you have
of beating this without further damage
to your liver.
My First Liver Biopsy
Gunned Down in Basic Training
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